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Political Drama Aplenty for Obama, Congress, Both Major Parties in 2013

December 29, 2012 - 6:00pm

With his win over Mitt Romney in November, President Barack Obama will be the center of national politics in 2013. But his effectiveness will be determined by how the White House and Congress deal with the impending fiscal cliff.

The first year of a presidents second term can often produce major successes like the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act, which Ronald Reagan signed in 1985. But presidents often stumble out of the gate in their second term, limiting how effective they will be subsequently. Even before Monica Lewinsky became a household name, Bill Clinton could not get fast track authority to negotiate trade deals through Congress in 1997, despite a recent victory over Bob Dole.

With Republicans controlling the U.S. House, Obama has to be very careful that his handling of the fiscal cliff does not burn bridges with the GOP. If he wants to push other issues this year, namely immigration reform and Joe Bidens efforts on gun control, Obama will need Republican votes in the House. Theyll be hard to come by if fiscal cliff negotiations continue to go poorly.

With the Democrats in control of the Senate, Obama should be able to get through most of his Cabinet nominees as he shuffles the deck on his administration. John Kerry should breeze through the nomination process to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. There will be other Cabinet officials to replace as well, with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson heading to the sidelines and others rumored to be following shortly.

Chuck Hagel will be more of a problem as the Obama team mulls nominating him to be secretary of defense. Republicans will hammer Hagel for his record on Israel and in the Middle East, while Democrats will fire away at his stance on social issues. On Meet the Press earlier this month, Democrat stalwart U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York made no effort to defend or praise Hagel when asked about his former Senate colleague. Obama could start 2013 off in poor shape with his trial balloons about Hagel being shot down -- much as they were when Susan Rices name was floated to replace Clinton.

In 2013, there will be some interesting political contests with national implications. With Kerry heading to the Cabinet, up in Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, who lost his Senate seat to Elizabeth Warren in November, is near-certain to try to return to Washington. Standing in his way will be U.S. Rep. Ed Markey and perhaps other Democrats. With Newark Mayor Cory Booker focused on running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be a favorite for a second term over whoever the Democratic nominee is. With Bob McDonnell facing term limits in Virginia, a political showdown is brewing as Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli looks to be headed for a contest with former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Keep an eye on Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who has left the GOP and could be running for governor as an independent. With Michael Bloomberg leaving office after 12 years as mayor of New York City, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is a favorite to replace him. If Quinn wins, she will be the highest-profile member of the gay community to hold office in America.

Republicans will start lining up to run for the Senate in 2014. Only 13 Republican seats are on the line in 2014 while 20 Democrats have to defend theirs. Republicans could have opportunities to pick up seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and Virginia, while defending seats in generally red states (with the exception of Maine). Still, Republicans have had this type of opportunity before -- as in 2012 when they failed in their efforts to pick up the Senate.

In the meantime, the pack of 2016 presidential hopefuls will start to form. All eyes will be on Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, though, if she does not run, it will be an interesting contest as the likes of Biden, Andrew Cuomo and Elizabeth Warren fight it out for the nomination. Possible Republican hopefuls --including Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin and others -- will start attending county fairs in Iowa and making the rounds in New Hampshire. In 2013, another presidential cycle begins again.

One story to keep an eye on in 2013 will be how other nations take a more active role in space exploration. India is set to launch a probe of Mars, and China will try to send an unmanned rocket to the moon plus an addition to a space station they hope to have in operation in 2020. NASA will counter by launching unmanned scouts to Venus and Mars. How these various operations go could set the stage for a potential space race in the years to come.

Freelance political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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